Saturday, October 08, 2005

Irrational suspicions (flash fiction)

On the Caferati board, a weekly "flash fiction" writing exercise has lately been afoot. Each month, volunteer judges from a different urban center administer the exercise (presented in form of a writing contest); they set the topic and (somehow) assign points to the stories submitted. Main thing about flash fiction is, there's a limit of 500 words. Happens in a flash (or a mildly prolonged flash). As an exercise, I've tried this a couple times so far. My abilities in prose fiction seem (painfully) limited, though the medium fascinates me as a reader. Perhaps a bit of regular effort can serve to limber up & develop my approach & potential.

Just now I wrote such a story. This month, the Punkars [denizens of Pune, India] have assumed the administrative mantle. Designated topic? "Time Travel." What I came up with is seen below. It's based on real thoughts & experiences (the topic has interested me) -- though here decked out in a ___ [certain] fashion (I'll not prejudice your reading with self-critical adjectives). Se la vie; as noted, I'm a fiction novice. Takes time to get up to snuff. I've neglected fiction too long.

So now I'm alternating "reflective prose" (non-fiction) with liberal doses of poetry plus a small dash of fiction too. The mix perhaps suits my blogo-conception.

Irrational Suspicions

I'd always assumed what everyone assumed. Time begins at point A, goes to point B, then comes C, et cetera (ad nausea). No backwards, only forward. No skipping. Nothing unusual: it's all super-rational, a clean machine. Banal's the word for it. Boring.

You're stuck on a mechanical conveyor belt. You get on when you're born, and in the end -- at end of the belt-ride -- you'll get dumped off into nothingness. Finis. End of story. Meanwhile, you're locked into position as sure as a can of Campbell's Soup at the factory. Or a car being assembled part by logical part. Whether you're being assembled or disassembled could be a question. Or maybe you started out as a Honda but ended up as a Lamborghini. Or vice versa? Even those transformations are made out to be rational. How does a Lamborghini end up a Honda? Nobody will explain this to you. The whole idea anyway is frowned upon. You were always a Honda, they'll mutter.

When I dreamed, those rules didn't apply. In dream, the frame of reality kept shifting. I liked the feeling, but couldn't make sense of it. This got me wondering. I'd sit, going over my dream-book (I'd started to write them down) for hours. If anybody else was wondering, they kept mum. Everybody seemed sold on the program.

Things started happening. What things? Things, okay? Like, I'd dream of a man in a green shirt (not any green, this particular lime green) saying such-and-such, with his head at X angle and his voice just so. Wake up, forget it, bye-bye dream. Four months later, I'm standing in a store, waiting in line (you always wait in lines here), and in walks Mr. Green Shirt. Starts asking a question of the sales clerk, his head in X position, his voice just so.

The more I noticed, the more it happened. It affected my thoughts too. I'd dream of having a certain thought -- often connected with a sensation. Like I'd dream of thinking so-and-so while hearing a particular passage of music. A week later, I'd be hearing that song, and the thought would come. The dream was lost till that moment. Then I'd remember it in a flash.

The quality of these experiences seemed exciting. You'd think I'd be as freaked as some Franz Kafka bug. But it didn't make me paranoid. Strange? Yes. I figured I'd best keep mum.

I wouldn't call this time travel. "Travel" is just conveyor-belt talk. First they sell you on the conveyor belt program, then they try to excite you with frills: "Look, maybe you can jump positions." Big bleeding deal, okay? The time travel thing is lame, if you're asking me.

They don't get it. We're doing something weirder than time travel. It's not going forward, it's always moving is peculiar circles and elegant loops. Loop-di-loop! Don't mention I said this, okay? Keep mum. If word slips out, just say it was a dream. Although even that may sound suspicious.

(500 words)


Blogger ~River~ said...

I like this new take on time travel. The déjà-vu thingy is rather nice and scary, isn't it? I like it when it happens to me. The moment of recognition, a bright bulb switched on inside you, and then a shivery, goose-pimply feeling!

And there's nothing wrong with your prose!

Sat Oct 08, 01:32:00 AM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Thanks Riv --
I think it's something involved with the "voice" or "point of view" with such writing that I don't feel I have enough of a grip on. Perhaps more practice-experiment can help me work that out. For example, there's something a tad hokey in this one. (It's the feeling of a "contrived personality" that I've not yet "solved" to my satisfaction, in other words.)

About deja vu: yes this interests me quite a lot. In my own experience, it's always seemed directly linked with precognitive dream. The amazing thing is that what is "recognized" can simply be the appearance of a thought! -- but it's typically enmeshed with some highly transcient mundane sense experience (perhaps always visual or audio-visual): some person walking in a room, some angle of view sitting on a chair, whatever. I'm not a very regular recollector of dreams, but this aspect holds my interest.

Back in my teens in fact, I read a curious book on the topic: An Experiment with Time (J.W. Dunne, 1927). Dunne tried to study, analyze, and theorize about the phenomenon of precognitive dream rationally & scientifically. The most interesting point I took from that reading was this generalization. He concluded that not all dreams are descriptive of the daily life experience of the individual; but that among those that are, approx. half reflect past experience and half reflect future experiene.
(How's that for an eyebrow-raiser?)

cheers, d.i.

Sat Oct 08, 02:19:00 AM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

ps: the precognitive dream phenomenon made a cameo appearance in a footnote in Meher Baba's (I'd say) under-appreciated cosmological treatice-tome, God Speaks; -- the note focused on philosphical implications of the phenomenon. From the specific phenomenon, it jumps to a much larger conclusion: all phenomena is inherent in what he calls "the original Whim of God"; because it's inherent, it already (in some manner of speaking) exists. Although this reading amounts to verbose elaboration (on my part). Equally curious is the relevance (to this deja vu topic) of passages in a once-trendy volume (which I've not seen since decades) entitled Secret Oral Teachings (an early English exposition of Tibetan Buddhism). The thing noted there (if I can recall it after decades, or if I even grasped it to begin with) involved the view that phenomena in the physical world always emerge from a prior "seed form" in the mental world. The astonishing idea as it was presented, seemed to be (more or less): by the time it reaches the physical plane, it's (one could say) already in the past. That is, what we experience in the present is tantamont to memory (a thing that's already transpired).

My crude paraphrase messes with the subtle-techno-thought, no doubt; even so, it leaves things to think on.

cheers, d.i.

Sat Oct 08, 02:45:00 AM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

incidentally, that story had been written under aegis of a writing assignment at Caferati (with the paraphernalia -- or I guess one could say courtesy -- of grading, feedback, and even awarding of hat-tips for top scores). Oddly enough, this story won such a hat-tip (tied w/ two other entries for top grade, from among 22 entries, all on topic "time travel"). Such a pleasantry isn't I think apt to go too much to my head (I've well enough some sense of flaw in the writing); but I do take it as a nice encouragement.

The smart & formidable Max Babi (one of the Pune-based judges of this exercise) raised one objection in terms of genre -- saying really my story was about Deja Vu rather than about "Time Travel." I took the occasion of this to argue a contrary case -- that my little story questions the conventional meaning of what "time travel" might signify: suggesting that deja vu points to a commonplace (rather than specialized) form of "time travel" in ordinary dream-&-waking life. Or something like that . . . this is material very hard to put right in words.

Anyway, for any diehard reader ready to hear more of this balderdash, you could look here. The relevant passage begins with the paragraph that starts:
<< About your other (deeper) critique, ... >>

Tue Oct 11, 11:31:00 PM PDT  

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